We, Humans, Have Been Evolved To Suffer

Humans are Evolved To Suffer

We humans have been evolved to suffer. It’s primarily because of our inherent nature of mind. Our mind is generally in a state of perpetual dissatisfaction and restlessness. It’s like a drunken monkey, restless and jumping from one set of thoughts to another, like eating and throwing away half eaten fruits. When the mind is disturbed, it’s becomes distressed and difficult to control negative thoughts. Despite our best efforts, most of us fail to calm our mind. As we generally don’t know how to manage our mind and thoughts during troubling times, suffering aggravates.
Suffering, in simple words, is an outcome of thoughts and emotions that arise under troubling life’s experiences and situations. There may be many triggers behind suffering such as physical pain, fear, anger, helplessness, guilt, shame, loneliness, sadness, traumatic experiences and so on. They all can generate mental suffering of varying degree. When we keep on recalling any negative and painful experience/incident, we get trapped into ‘negativity loop’. These experiences don’t make us to suffer, It’s the associated thoughts that lead to mental and psychological distress.
To come out from mental suffering is becoming a big challenge. More particularly, we tend to suffer over fear from real and imaginary threats, and negative ideas about the future. Disturbing thoughts may focus on violence, sex, and past traumatic events. Psychologists call these types of thoughts intrusive thoughts because they pop into our heads, often without warning, and cause us distress. Now the question arises why our mind acts and reacts the way it does. Why it’s becomes so restless, agitated and sometime unmanageable when we are under acute mental stress.
First of all, our mind wanders all the time unless we are attentive on any task, activity or anything interesting happening around us. A wandering mind is in its natural state. Normally, 50% of the time our mind is not focused or attentive, in fact. it’s on wandering mode. When we are bored or doing routine or any other uninteresting work, mind’s wandering is as high as 70%. However, when we are engaged in mind-absorbing or concentration-demanding tasks, this percentage is low, as low as 10%.
To be ‘present on the moments’ is a very difficult task. Moreover, now because of digital distractions, it’s becoming all the more difficult to focus on anything. In fact, in modern age, attention span is further decreasing. So, our minds are more distracted and hence the more the mind wanders. Greater the wandering of thoughts, more unhappy and restless we become. We can enjoy happy moments only when we are ‘present on the moment’ and attentive on certain task or activity. Since we mostly live in future or in the past, we are, in general, becoming more unhappy and hence, more prone to suffering.
Another inherent feature of mind that also contribute to human suffering is negativity bias. We have general inclination towards negativity in life. We are especially sensitive to negative thoughts and emotions because our capacity to weigh negative inputs is comparatively very high, whereas positive ones are less compelling.
To know the reason, we need to see this inherent aspect of mind from evolutionary perspective. It was a necessity for survival during those early days of human’s evolution. Because of our past, living the life of hunter-gatherers for millions of years, this negative bias got deeply embedded in our mind.
During those times we lived in constant fear of wild animals and other predators. Living conditions were dangerous and frightening. So, we became highly sensitive to any threat – whether real or imagined — due to prevailing living conditions. That’s how the negative bias got hardwired into our brain. We became very sensitive and adept at identifying threats and then remembering negative experiences so that we could better handle such situations when they happened again.
In modern age, our living conditions have changed drastically but our mind’s sensitive for negative thoughts remains unchanged. We instantly pick up thoughts relating to fear and threat whether real or imaginary. The worst part is, the negative thoughts are very ‘sticky’. They don’t leave the mind easily. They continue to trouble us for longer time unless we learn to manage them. If we attempt to suppress them by diverting our attention to other things or activities, they continue to invade our mind. In fact, on many occasions their frequency and intensity may increase. These thoughts then lead to severe kind of mental suffering.
There may be innumerable reasons why do we suffer in our routine life. Even small incidents like getting late for an important meeting, some unpleasant personal remark by someone, heated argument with the spouse, stuck in a traffic jam and so on can trigger mental suffering. The associated thoughts attached with the incident cause mental distress when we are not able to control those thoughts. No one can avoid such types of experiences in our day to day life. However, if we see on bigger perspective, there is one other reason that often make us suffer. It’s either we resist or desire change. We don’t accept life as it’s presented to us from time to time. Everything in life is transient but even then, many times it becomes difficult to accept change, when the change ‘hurts’ us.
We often resist change because of the ease and familiarity of living conditions. Locked in our comfort zone, change is perceived as a threat. Imagine someone who has been working in a metro city for the past decade.
His children are studying at local reputed University and he is living most happily. But then he gets a transfer order to some far away state. Anticipating that his life will be completely disturbed, his mental suffering begins.
Despite his best efforts to stop the transfer, he is forced to leave for the new place. Feeling he has been wronged, he continues to suffer. It goes almost without saying that changing circumstances do not cause suffering; it’s the reactive thoughts and emotions associated with those changes that lead to painful feelings.
Our minds are generally in a state of subtle, unrecognized dissatisfaction, no matter what we possess for leading a comfortable life. Even if we are maintaining excellent relationships, having a harmonious working atmosphere, and a warm home environment, our mind may still be open to disturbance at the slightest provocation. Most people are unable to remain contented for a sustained time. Feelings of vague dissatisfaction will invariably arise. This seems to be a natural state of mind. It becomes restless. We are generally looking to “improve” our living conditions, to accumulate more and more material things with the hope that these things will make us happy. Such desires can be never-ending. In their pursuit, we create mental distress and unhappiness, resulting in mental suffering.
Take away: As the living conditions, in modern age, are becoming more and more complex, we are becoming more prone to metal stress and suffering. Our minds have not able to adapt to new challenges, which are unique to modern life. From evolutionary point of view, we have lived only about few dozens of generations, while our ancestors, hunter gatherers lived for about 2 million years. That’s why fear and aggression lie deep in our collective psyche. As we have seen, our mind is very fragile and sensitive to fearful and negative thoughts. Our mind instantly reacts to threat both real and imaginary. Whenever there is any external trigger, negative and distressing thoughts start causing mental suffering. It can be started by way of mental stress, pain, grief, sorrow, pain, miseries, satisfactoriness etc. In our life, it’s very difficult to avoid external triggers leading to mental suffering. Unless we learn how to manage our mind and thoughts, we will remain prone to suffering.

We, humans, have been evolved to suffer

We humans have been evolved to suffer. It’s primarily because of our inherent nature of mind. Our mind is generally in a state of perpetual dissatisfaction and restlessness. It’s like a drunken monkey, restless and jumping from one set of thoughts to another, like eating and throwing away half eaten fruits. When the mind is disturbed, it’s becomes distressed and difficult to control negative thoughts. Despite our best efforts, we most fail to calm our mind. As we generally don’t know how to manage our mind and thoughts during troubling times, suffering aggravates.
Suffering, in simple words, is an outcome of thoughts and emotions that arise under troubling life’s situations.
There may be many triggers behind suffering such as physical pain, fear, anger, helplessness, guilt, shame,

loneliness, sadness, traumatic experiences and so on. They all can generate mental suffering of varying degree. When we keep on recalling any negative and painful experience/incident, we get trapped into ‘negativity loop’. The experiences as such don’t make us to suffer. It’s the associated thoughts that lead to mental and psychological distress.
To come out from mental suffering becomes a big challenge. More particularly, we tend to suffer over fear from real and imaginary threats, and negative ideas about the future. Disturbing thoughts may focus on violence, sex, and past traumatic events. Psychologists call these types of thoughts intrusive thoughts because they pop into our heads, often without warning, and cause us distress. Now the question arises why our mind acts and reacts the way it does. Why it’s becomes so restless, agitated and sometime unmanageable when we are under acute mental stress.
First of all, our mind wanders all the time unless we are attentive on any task, activity or anything interesting happening around us. A wandering mind is in its natural state. Normally, 50% of the time our mind is not focused or attentive, in fact. it’s on wandering mode. When we are bored or doing routine or any other uninteresting work, mind’s wandering is as high as 70%. However, when we are engaged in mind-absorbing or concentration-demanding tasks, this percentage is low, as low as 10%.
To be ‘present on the moments’ is very difficult task. Moreover, now because of digital distractions, it’s becoming all the more difficult to focus on anything. In fact, in modern age, attention span is further decreasing. So, our minds are more distracted and hence more mind’s wandering. Greater the wandering of thoughts, more unhappy and restless we become. We can enjoy happy moments only when we are ‘present on the moment’ and attentive on certain task or activity. Since we mostly live in future or in the past, we are, in general, becoming more unhappy and hence, more prone to suffering.
Another inherent feature of mind that also contribute to human suffering is negativity bias. We have general inclination towards negativity in life. We are especially sensitive to negative thoughts and emotions because our capacity to weigh negative inputs is comparatively very high, whereas positive ones are less compelling.
To know the reason, we need to see this inherent aspect of mind from evolutionary perspective. It was a necessity for survival during those early days of human’s evolution. Because of our past, living the life of hunter-gatherers for millions of years, this negative bias got deeply embedded in our mind.
During those times we lived in constant fear of wild animals and other predators. Living conditions were dangerous and frightening. So, we became highly sensitive to any threat – whether real or imagined — due to prevailing living conditions. That’s how the negative bias got hardwired into our brain. We became very sensitive and adept at identifying threats and then remembering negative experiences so that we could better handle such situations when they happened again.
In modern age, our living conditions have changed drastically but our mind’s sensitive for negative thoughts remains unchanged. We instantly pick up thoughts relating to fear and threat whether real or imaginary. The worst part is, the negative thoughts are very ‘sticky’. They don’t leave the mind easily. They continue to trouble us for longer time unless we learn to manage them. If we attempt to suppress them by diverting our attention to other things or activities, they continue to invade our mind. In fact, on many occasions their frequency and intensity may increase. These thoughts then lead to severe kind of mental suffering.
There may be innumerable reasons why do we suffer in our routine life. Even small incidents like getting late for an important meeting, some unpleasant personal remark by someone, heated argument with the spouse, stuck in a traffic jam and so on can trigger mental suffering. The associated thoughts attached with the incident cause mental distress when we are not able to control those thoughts. No one can avoid such types of experiences in our day to day life. However, if we see on bigger perspective, there is one other reason that often make us suffer. It’s either we resist or desire change. We don’t accept life as it’s presented to us from time to time. Everything in life is transient but even then, many times it becomes difficult to accept change,
when the change ‘hurts’ us.

We often resist change because of the ease and familiarity of living conditions. Locked in our comfort zone, change is perceived as a threat. Imagine someone who has been working in a metro city for the past decade.
His children are studying at local reputed University and he is living most happily. But then he gets a transfer order to some far away state. Anticipating that his life will be completely disturbed, his mental suffering begins.
Despite his best efforts to stop the transfer, he is forced to leave for the new place. Feeling he has been wronged, he continues to suffer. It goes almost without saying that changing circumstances do not cause suffering; it’s the reactive thoughts and emotions associated with those changes that lead to painful feelings.
Our minds are generally in a state of subtle, unrecognized dissatisfaction, no matter what we possess for leading a comfortable life. Even if we are maintaining excellent relationships, having a harmonious working atmosphere, and a warm home environment, our mind may still be open to disturbance at the slightest provocation. Most people are unable to remain contented for a sustained time. Feelings of vague dissatisfaction will invariably arise. This seems to be a natural state of mind. It becomes restless. We are generally looking to “improve” our living conditions, to accumulate more and more material things with the hope that these things will make us happy. Such desires can be never-ending. In their pursuit, we create mental distress and unhappiness, resulting in mental suffering.
Take away: As the living conditions, in modern age, are becoming more and more complex, we are becoming more prone to metal stress and suffering. Our minds have not able to adapt to new challenges, which are unique to modern life. From evolutionary point of view, we have lived only about few dozens of generations, while our ancestors, hunter gatherers lived for about 2 million years. That’s why fear and aggression lie deep in our collective psyche. As we have seen, our mind is very fragile and sensitive to fearful and negative thoughts.
Our mind instantly reacts to threat both real and imaginary. Whenever there is any external trigger, negative and distressing thoughts start causing mental suffering. It can be started by way of mental stress, pain, grief, sorrow, pain, miseries, satisfactoriness etc. In our life, it’s very difficult to avoid external triggers leading to mental suffering. Unless we learn how to manage our mind and thoughts, we will remain prone to suffering.

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